MALCOLM & MARIE looks fantastic, a black-and-white retro-mod reverie as cushiony as an Eames lounge chair. It features terrific actors - Zendaya and John David Washington - who also happens to be a movie-star gorgeous.

And one scene, set against perhaps the most romantic piece of music ever performed, the Duke Ellington and John Coltrane version of Ellington's ''In a Sentimental Mood,'' radiates a sensual elegance that's rare in movies today. How could a picture with so much going for it go so terribly wrong?

Written and directed by Sam Levinson [ creator of HBO's Euphoria ], Malcolm & Marie takes place over a few nighttime hours as an arrogant but perhaps talented filmmaker, Malcolm [Washington], fields the unruly anger of his girlfriend Marie [ Zendaya ] as he waits for the reviews to roll in following the premiere of his latest chef d'oeuvre.

The minute the two set foot in their hip, minimalist [rented] malibu house, you know there's trouble in paradise. Malcolm, still high on the evening festivities, prattles on about his prodigious talents and complains about white critics who twist themselves in knots to see racial politics in every movie he makes.

Meanwhile, Marie - still draped in the slinky column of a dress she wore to the premiere - drifts to the stove like an exquisite zombie and starts rustling up some late-night mac 'n' cheese. She's about to let Malcolm have it, and it won't be pretty.

The first third of Malcolm & Marie has some wit and verve, but that bliss is short-lived. The heart of Marie's complaint is that Malcolm has stolen her story for his movie - she's a recovering drug addict who has struggled with mental health issues.

Levinson has ripped quite a few rock' em - sock'em pages from John Cassavetes as well as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but the couple's fighting is circular in a way that courts only boredom.

Zendaya is saddled with the tedious role of the brainy beauty who's also ''difficult'' - yet men can't resist her!

Somehow, though, Zendaya still dazzles. As she surveys Malcolm through her half-lowered mermaid lids, her storm-cloud mood seems perfectly reasonable. She speaks a subterranean truth that the movie just can't reach with its words.

Malcolm & Marie streams on Netflix starting Feb.5.

The World Students Society thanks review author Stephanie Zacharek.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!